SC stayed Andhra Pradesh HC order — sought to convene a judicial inquiry into whether there is a “constitutional breakdown” in the Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government in the State.
The top court quickly halted an untenable adventure by the High Court
A case of judicial over-reach by the A.P. High Court.
The question of a “constitutional breakdown” or the failure of constitutional machinery is dealt with under Article 356 of the Constitution, whose invoking comes under the prerogative of the executive and not the judiciary.
S.R. Bommai case — a 9-member Bench of the Supreme Court construed the scope of Article 356, which also allows the imposition of President’s Rule in the States, with stringent conditions for the valid exercise of that power by the President after being presented with a proclamation by the Union Council of Ministers.
These included ascertaining whether objective conditions exist which render it impossible to carry out governance in the State where the proclamation has been made and the process has to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before consideration for judicial review.
The Supreme Court’s order comes in the wake of incidents pointing to a tussle between the judiciary and the elected government in Andhra Pradesh.
Stopping the slide of health care in India
India’s health care is a dark echo chamber.
It is 70% private and 30% public in a country where 80% people do not have any protection for health and the out-of-pocket expense is as high as 62%.
With public spending at 1.13% of GDP and a huge shortage of health-care workers particularly nurses and midwives, policy moves and plans appear like a sound in emptiness.
The fact is 85% of the population cannot afford high cost, corporate private health care.
Even with avowedly 12 crore card holders under Ayushman Bharat, only 1.27 crore people have taken advantage of the scheme.
Private sector health care is driven by return on capital.
Consumption is high for those health-care services which are often inefficient because of supplier-induced demand created and provided by doctors and hospitals which have superior knowledge, compared to patients.
They encourage patients to demand tests and interventions, though the improved quality of care and outcomes are uncertain.
This results in an upward bias in insurance premium which in turn creates a fiscal externality in the long term.
India’s health problem has a 80:20 rule;
20% of people can afford modern health care
40% cannot afford it at all
Other 40% the so-called non-poor, pay with difficulty
Nearly 70 million of the non-poor slide into poverty on a year-to-year basis.
The country could be sitting on a dormant volcano of antibiotic and steroid immunity.
Primary health care should receive three times more allocation in the budget and doctor and paramedic strength should be doubled merely on the basis of population increase.
If necessary, doctors can be given incentives in terms of extra salary and post graduate seat preference, but in parallel, given penalties for absenteeism for rural posting.
Losing the plot on women’s safety
Most governments, when faced with the question of improving women’s safety, inevitably turn to enacting new laws rather than ensuring a more effective legal system.
The Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law (Maharashtra Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the accompanying Special Courts and Machinery for Implementation of Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law follow the same cliché of harsher punishment, more authorities, and wider definitions.
The Bills’ content reflects the absence of a larger consultative process and lack of understanding of existing criminal laws.
For any criminal justice system to be effective, fair and just laws, a robust investigative mechanism, a dynamic judiciary and adequate infrastructure are indispensable.
What is currently lacking is the infrastructure required for effective implementation.
The Maharashtra government should hence focus on improving infrastructure, rather than bringing in harsher and unreasonable provisions in the guise of securing women’s safety.
Offences against women often occur behind closed doors or at desolate places, making finding eyewitnesses difficult.
Further, the death penalty has been in the statute books for a long time, but there is no evidence affirming its potency as a deterrent in preventing crimes.
Importantly, studies have shown that often, the accused in sexual assault crimes are relatives or persons known to the victims.
If the punishment for the crime is death, then not only the family of the victim, but the victim herself may choose not to report the crime or may turn hostile during the trial.
Research has also indicated that judges are unlikely to convict a person when the punishment is death.
Another provision stipulating that investigation should be completed within 15 days, the trial in 30 days and the appeal in 45 days, even if well-intentioned, will only result in improper investigation and trial.
Further, the Bill does not state what happens if the investigation, trial, or appeal is not completed within the prescribed time.
The Bill was opposed by several women’s rights organisations and lawyers from Maharashtra, which seems to have led the State government to refer it to a JOINT SELECT COMMITTEE.
This is a welcome move and it would be in the interest of women, and justice itself, if the committee has a larger consultative process, engages with stakeholders and experts to understand the existing criminal laws, and reconsiders passing this regressive legislation.
On Saturday, global personal technology major Apple placed all fresh production orders on hold for its Taiwanese supplier Wistron.
This embargo may affect all Wistron units, but the trigger was one of the biggest expressions of industrial unrest in India in recent years — at a new facility set up by the firm in Kolar, Karnataka, to manufacture iPhones, among other things.
Violence broke out at the unit on December 12 after several workers raised slogans protesting against non-payment of their dues, a protest that escalated.
In Kolar, Wistron claimed ₹437 crore of damages from the incident even as the Centre and the State government reacted with alacrity, given the importance of the project for India to establish its credentials as an alternative manufacturing base to China.
From playing victim initially, Wistron has been compelled to change tack — it now claims the damages from the violence were about ₹50 crore and has fired a top official handling its India operations for failing to ensure employees got their entire dues in a timely manner.
Perhaps, if designated officials for hearing labour grievances had reacted adequately when Wistron’s 1,300-odd regular staffers or its 8,000 odd contract workers at Kolar raised a red flag about wages, this may not have come to pass.
When a showcase project becomes an exemplary basket case within months, for whatever reasons, the repercussions are deeper and wider.
The assembling of iPhones has often been held up as an example of the government’s success in boosting domestic manufacturing.
Wages of discontent | Ind Exp
At a time when the government is actively courting foreign investment, and making a concerted attempt to position India as a global manufacturing hub, the labour crisis at the Wistron Corp plant in Narasapura, Bengaluru, is disconcerting.
The violence that erupted at the manufacturing facility was allegedly on account of workers protesting the non-payment of regular and overtime dues by the company.
Both Wistron and Apple have acknowledged the lapses in the payment of wages.
Wistron, along with Foxconn and the Pegatron Corp, lies at the heart of component manufacturing and the mobile phone assembly drive in India.
In fact, looking to replicate the apparent success of its mobile phone assembly initiative, the government has recently announced the expansion of its Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme to cover 10 key sectors, ranging from automobiles to pharmaceutical drugs.
For instance, the Industrial Relations Code 2020 enables industry to employ workers on a fixed-term contract for seasonal and short-term jobs, sidestepping the contractor system — six contractors were responsible for recruiting contractual workers for Wistron.
Considering that changes to labour laws are often viewed with suspicion, as the debate has often been framed in terms of empowering managements, the current crisis may well heighten such fears.
At a time of acute distress, labour practices will come under intense scrutiny.
While some flexibility for firms is desirable, both the government and firms must realise that during periods of acute precarity, concerns of labour must be kept front and centre.
On media, the Vice-President speaks up | HT
Delivering a lecture on Friday, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu became the senior-most constitutional functionary to raise an issue that lies at the heart of India’s information flows, media ecosystem, and, therefore, democratic functioning.
He said that the print media is adapting to the digital medium with sincerity, but added that information generated by the print media at substantial cost was being “hijacked by social media giants”.
Mr Naidu then referred to how some countries were taking steps to ensure a revenue-sharing model between print media and social media companies, and called for “effective guidelines or laws” to enable print media to get its share of the revenue.
He also mentioned how democratisation enabled by social media was welcome, but there were clear downsides in the absence of regulation and protocols.
It is heartening that India’s top national leadership is finally paying attention to an issue that has implications for how news is produced, how it is consumed, how narratives are formed, who become the primary players in the information theatre, and how this, then, enables citizens to access information and exercise their choice.
The issue here is not about profit or loss.
It is about a principle — can a few digital monopolies hide behind the pretence of being intermediaries while exercising editorial control and extract profits from work done by others?
Mr Naidu has triggered an important debate and a bipartisan consensus is essential to rein in social media companies, and treat them as just that, media companies which must follow the law both in their content and their business models.
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